Chi’s sweet adventures Vol 1

chiis
[originally posted on UK-anime network]
Kanata Konami’s Chi’s Sweet Home first premiered in manga form in 2004. This is the story of a small kitten and her adventures and interactions with both her adopted human family, the Yamada’s, and the other felines that inhabit her neighbourhood. Who could have imagined the original story would result in 3 animated adaptations and this sequel manga, published once more in English by Vertical.

Ever inquisitive (and forever getting in trouble for it) Chi’s adventures are split into separate standalone chapters, with each formatted into a 4 panel style called “4 Koma” (a surprisingly old format that this reviewer sees being used far less these days), we follow Chi and the Yamada’s through their everyday lives, all the while seeing things from Chi’s unique cat perspective. This ranges from visiting a forest park, to Chi learning how to act like a cat from fellow felines – the older Blackie and a stray black and white cat that tries to act tough – but secretly enjoys Chi’s company.

The artwork, while basic, benefits from being excessively cluttered – a benefit considering that this series is intended ideally for a younger audience. Also, the writing is of a level ideal for a younger reader to follow along with little help – great for those wanting to introduce manga to younger relatives.

If I had any complaint about the series it’s that, as a continuation of Konami ‘s previous series, the reader is expected to know both the situation and the backgrounds of the characters, with no introductory text to introduce them. That results in the first-time reader largely left wondering who each of the side characters are and how they know Chi.

As a result, Chi’s sweet adventure is a mixed bag – on one hand its innocent family friendly escapades will be ideal for young readers or those less enamoured with more violent works. However, with its simplistic art style and self-contained, drama-free plotlines, it may deter those people looking for more substantial work.

Ghost diary vol 1

cover

[note: the following review was completed using a review copy supplied by seven seas]

First published in 2014 in Dengeki Daioh, and written and drawn by newcomer Seiju Natsumegu, this, the first of a three volume series, introduces us to Sukami Kyouichi, a high school student and trained exorcist who, after a fateful encounter six years prior with a shrine deity leads to his Elder sister and fellow exorcist Sukami Hanaichi being kidnapped by the same deity in exchange for sparing his life, leads him to aspire to both find her and to complete her titular ghost diary – a guide book for the identifying and defeating of supernatural creatures.

We are also introduced to Mangekyou Academy’s Occult club, which comprises our secondary cast for this series – detective wannabe Saeki Yuushirou, resident ventriloquist [via teddy bear] Suzukago Kukuri, Gangsters son and [later on revealed to be computer expert] Onigashima Tatsumi and Kaguyadou Mayumi, who will be our Tusndere/unconfessed love interest for this series.

However Kyouichi’ s life takes a sudden turn when a reaper, Chloe Kowloon, approaches him with an offer – Complete the Ghost diary, and in so doing restore Chloe’s memories, and she will help him find Sukami. Sounds simple on paper – Except from the get go we get the sense that, despite appearances, Chloe has her own agenda for completing the Diary – an agenda that does not bode well for the fate of Kyouichi or his friends in the occult club – and especially Mayumi.

cast 2

The first thing that struck me immediately about Ghost diary was the art-style – from its backgrounds to character designs I initially thought was that this was something from the pen of the famous manga group CLAMP yet I could find no direct link between them or Natsumegu – whether its one of the group [or a former member] under a pseudonym or just someone who’s style is a near copy of their style we may never know.

Secondly the concept for the series itself does show potential – each episode covers either Kyouichi or one of the club members discovering a legend and, after investigating, either Kyouichi or Chloe dispatch said supernatural antagonist. However we also have that standard trope of many a manga series with more than one female cast member – the love triangle, with Mayumi forever pining [but not admitting to it] for Kyouichi, despite him seeming to have all the perception of mitochondria, whilst shes forever jealous that Chloe, with her impressive built figure, will seduce Kyouichi away – and with a promise of restoring his sister to him who can blame him.

However at the same time there were some flaws that for me at least stuck out notably – for example except for Kyouichi all we really know about the club members is a brief piece of text under their names [for example “Kaguyadou Mayumi Daughter of a makeup mogul”] and that’s it – unless we see more development in the later volumes their sole purpose [going by this volume] seem to be to either offer leads to the main character, get into danger that requires Kyouichi to come and rescue them or just stay in the background.

As I mentioned earlier from the get go it seems that Kyouichi, Mayumi and Chloe will be the main focus, with the rest of the Occult club cast staying in the background as the aforementioned damsels in distress/plot providers – I hope that I am mistaken about this as there is definite potential to develop these characters further [for example its implied early on that Yuushirou, on top of having the hots for Hanaichi, may also have feelings for Mayumi, but has chosen to step aside in favour of Kyouichi].

The volume wraps up with a backstory showing the founding of the Occult club which was largely by the numbers in its execution – it mostly comes down to:

Hey, what to join our club?”

Okey”

And yet, with all this in mind…..I want to wait and see. This first volume, despite all the faults I found with it, nonetheless sets up an interesting story and cast that could in the right hands develop into an engaging and intense series – whether Seiju Natsumegu has those hands….time will tell.

This first volume [of a planned three volume series] is available from Seven seas  in physical format from all regular stockists.

Confessions of a Texan in Tokyo

Confessions of a Texan in Tokyo cover

In lieu of a rich sugar-mummy, or a win on the lottery, my main source of life in Japan has been following the many blogs and vlogs of foreign residents living in and experiencing that far away country, with one of my favourites being American born Grace Buchele – Mineta and her Japanese husband Ryosuke Mineta’s “Texan In Tokyo” Youtube series and blog site that covers their life and times as a multinational couple living in Japan.

Its the later writings and 4 panel cartoons that have been gathered together over the last 2 years and published as a series of books with this, “Confessions of a Texan in Tokyo”, being her third release.
As with her previous work [ and a definite boon for anyone coming into her work for the first time with this volume] the book starts with a basic introduction of grace and Ryouske [ and Graces imaginary friend Marvin, who serves as one part graces sounding board, one part straight man].

Interspersed throughout the 4 panel comics are some of her writings from her Texan in Tokyo blog [and her posts from both gaijinpot and Metropolis Magazine] which cover a wide number of subjects from the serious [ like how she manages negative feedback to her posts, and how her health prevents her ability to ] to the informative [want to know what a Tsundoku suru hito is? How to live in Tokyo on a budget?which street light colour means go?] to the insightful [how grace dealt with culture shock while living abroad] all of which are written with a clear sense of knowledge and experience that you don’t get from a quick wikipedia search.
comic 1

So are there there any faults to this release? well the art style, while legible and entertaining might not be to very-ones cup of tea. Also, apart for the posts about negative posts, the book never really goes into the dark side if you will about life as a foreigner living In Japan – and im sure they have experienced their fair share – instead simply writing about the generally lighter side of their life and times.
There is also the fact that, as the majority of these posts and comics have been published online [either on her Texan in tokyo blog or on both the aforementioned gaijinpot and Metropolis Magazine’s own website], that your affectively paying for free content – however as neither websites contain a complete collection of her work and not all of them have been published in book format as yet [this and her previous 2 collections being more of a “best of” of her work so to speak] it could be argued that this is an easier way of seeing them all them in one place.

So have I tempted you? Or made you at least curious about her? then your in luck as Grace has, as a promotion of this new book, arranged so that from the 21st to the 23rd of this month it’ll be free to download from Amazon, with a physical release available afterwards

ryouske and grace